Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men’s Wear Fashion in Kenya

As we wondered ourselves, Manciny is not a common name but there is a reason this lovely lady has adopted that name. Her real name is Faith Wairimu Migwi, as she jokingly stated her “Kenya government names, her MPESA names.” Manciny is a nickname that grew on her friends 11 years ago stemming from her love for one of the characters from an old TV show called Melrose Place whose name was Michael Mancini (with an i). The name finally stuck and over the years she has come to love it so Manciny Migwi it is. “When I was venturing into fashion, it was either going to be called Migwi or Manciny so the name stuck and I chose Manciny.”

Her affair with fashion is, as she put it, one of those things you just have. When she decided to start professionally two years ago in May 2012, she began as an eco fashionista doing bags from recycled plastic and began her brand Eqo-Chic. “Eqo-Chic existed before the brand Manciny. I did not want to be stuck in that eco-box so I thought of having an entire fashion house that has eco as part of it.” Eco fashion derives from her appreciation for nature, order, justice and awareness of her carbon footprint. Manciny believes that fashion does not necessarily need to be fast fashion and add on to the waste that already exists so “why not recycle or repurpose something.” Maniciny is still trying to figure out the means to apply eco-chic to apparel but it is a work on progress.

Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya
VHS Collection – Eqo Chic
Made from recycled VHS Tape. Vintage button detail.
Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya
Mini Kiondo Collection : Eqo Chic.
These come in different sizes and colors. All made from recycled plastic. Beads/Kanga/Kikoi detail on each.

Manciny is inspired in all her collections by what she wears and therefore in essence a walking billboard for her brand. Manciny initially worked for 6 months with Nike Kondakis, based in Kenya, who works with recycled parachutes. “It was a good experience with Nike, learning how to manage a fashion brand, the use of the machines, quality control, setting up shows and exhibitions so it was training ground for me.” Thereafter she worked with Juliani for 1 year and 4 months on his project called kama si sisi which is an attitude change campaign. She recalls that it was the best time she has had adding that Juliani was the best boss she had. While working for Juliani, she had already started Eqo-Chic and began her brand Manciny.

Manciny had not studied fashion but like she said earlier, sometimes its one of those things you just have. She is yet to decide what she wants to do exactly but she is deeply fond of textiles and particularity textile design. Locally, she explains, “we do not have factories that churn out fabric and yet the demand is there. We usually buy from China or someplace else instead of creating our own.” If she ever did decide to study, textile design would be her major. Manciny studied entrepreneurship and business management, which is actually a good foundation for getting in the fashion business.

“I love challenges because it is so easy to get comfortable and lose the momentum.”

For Manciny, her field of choice in fashion is definitely men’s wear expounding that “men’s fashion excites me, I would love to spend more time understanding men’s wear.” The market is high for men’s wear, she explains, and they are good clients simply because of their ease and high rate of conversion. “Men, you just need to give them a reason to wear something and they will go for it,” she says. The beauty of women’s fashion, she further adds, is that they buy more frequently than men. Manciny, whose brand is a men’s wear brand, is thinking of doing a line for women with the hopes of launching in December this year.

Manciny, the brand, was showcased this year at FAFA, an event she most admires. Collaboration is how she works and so during FAFA, you may have seen the shirt and jacket (pictured below); a collaboration between herself and a graphic designer called Nyeks. “He is a pal of mine and he does amazing t-shirts with crazy graphics and screen printing on blazers.” Collaborations are good, she continues, because they benefit all parties. At the moment, Manciny’s collection starts from 3000Ksh upwards with an array of shirts, dress pants, khakis and kaftans for men.

Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya
Manciny Migwi at FAFA 2014 (c)RadekArtPhoto
Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya
A “Nyekitiki” fused Leather Tee.
— with Willie Nyeks Kanyeki, Lennox Leeroy and NYEKS apparel

A Manciny Green Tribal Patterned Double Breast Blazer

This year, there is something Manciny is even more excited about: blogging. She however explains that her blog is derived out of her passion for men’s wear and the need for a dedicated blog for men. “I have been saying that I will do it for a while now and shelved the idea but I think I will start.” At the Craft Afrika Symposium, Manciny was part of the mentee and mentor sessions where she derived great inspiration and encouragement from Ann McCreath.

“When I look in Nairobi, there are so many men who look good and dress well and I would love to capture that. You can tell that there was a thought process. If I have courage, I tell them that they look good, if not, I simply blush” she says laughing. She recalls a time when she was on a bus in Kilimani and came across and elderly man in a brown well-fitted suit and bowtie and thought of alighting, talking to him and taking his picture “and then I remembered…oh wait! …. I don’t have a blog so I carried on with my trip,” she states sighing comically. Manciny does not want to miss capturing such great moments.

Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya

Manciny wants the main subject of her blog to be men wherever she finds them. “I want men to be motivated to look good. I am tired of men going to weddings in polo and jeans to be honest. So my baby right now is to get the blog off the ground.”

“Fashion and style is always around us whatever age.”

Speaking of some of the challenges she has faced in the industry, Manciny, an avid fan of collaborations, does not see much of that happening citing that the presence of cliques will not do the industry justice. People are waking up to that fact, which is encouraging and will grow the industry, she remarks. Manciny further commented that if Kenya is to run a nationwide campaign for fashion, there has to be one voice and not about the designer only. “If I showcase in an international platform, the sense of unity would be that if people back home are buying my products and I am mentoring them, then that is a win for me. However, if I showcase, get the credit, the awards but do nothing back home to bring up the industry, then that would be a fail for me. Collaborations are needed and you can’t do everything by yourself. A sense of togetherness is what will take us to where we need to be.”

When it comes to fashion shows, Manciny has decided to do runway once a year simply because a great number of fashion events coming up that do not have a sense of unity and purpose with the designers getting the short end of the stick. Manciny sticks to FAFA because the organizers of the event have clout in the industry and she feels that they will have the right advertising and reach. “Without unity, we will not go far.”

Amongst designers, fabric is a challenge but most of all tailors. Manciny describes them as a ‘special breed’ that makes your life interesting. Tailors add to the madness, she explains, with the constant battle between your clients deadlines and the tailors deadlines but “I love them. We have some of the best craftsmen in Kenya.” There is however the challenge of everyone calling themselves fashion designers without truly understanding what it means simply to add some glamour adding to people’s assumptions that designers are glorified tailors. Manciny does not state this to demean tailors but there is a distinction and it hinders price points when clients want to bargain it down without taking into account the value chain.

There is an appreciation growing for Kenyan made products, which is encouraging, she adds, “but the constant bargaining because its local is a challenge.” Manciny feels that people should understand that behind a price is growth to all those involved in the value chain.

“There is a lot happening and am so excited about the growing change.”

Manciny is truly excited about 2015 and feels that it will be better, 2014 was a learning curve so she welcomes 2015 with open arms. She lastly adds that it would be a joy to actually see someone wearing Kenya. Part of the Manciny to do list is to start blogging stating that she cannot wait to meet the stylish men of Nairobi, launching the Manciny women’s line and being more social.

Photos courtesy of Manciny Migwi. See more from Manciny: Facebook | Website.

Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya
Manciny Migwi at Naivasha Fashion Weekend 2013

Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya

Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya
Manciny Migwi at FAFA 2014 (c)RadekArtPhoto
Manciny Migwi and Her Take on Men's Wear Fashion in Kenya
Manciny Migwi at Naivasha Fashion Weekend 2013
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